Corruption hinders Russia's attempts to replace losses with old vehicles - Ukraine

Mothballed Russian military equipment is being taken out of long-term storage, but stolen and missing parts are preventing the replenishment of vehicles and the replacing losses.

 A fragment of a destroyed Russian tank is seen on the roadside on the outskirts of Kharkiv on February 26, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (photo credit: SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)
A fragment of a destroyed Russian tank is seen on the roadside on the outskirts of Kharkiv on February 26, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
(photo credit: SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia is attempting to restore old military equipment held in long-term storage to replace losses suffered during its invasion of Ukraine but it is encountering difficulty in doing so because of corruption and the poor condition of the equipment, the Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate (GUR) said on Saturday.

Military gear is being removed from long-term storage facilities and is being channeled to a repair and rehabilitation base near the Belarus and Ukraine border, GUR asserted, but in cases such as the Russian 4th Tank Division, the conditions of vehicles are such that only one-in-ten "mothballed" units is in working order.  

The Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate alleged that corruption had been a major reason for the "extremely unsatisfactory" condition of the equipment being taken out of storage.

"Optical devices and electronics containing precious metals were stolen from the combat vehicles," said GUR. The intelligence body reported that many of the 4th Tank Division's stored tanks were "completely dismantled," and that some did not have engines.

The Armed Forces General Staff of Ukraine said in an early morning Sunday operational report that Russia had not given up on trying to replenish the loss of vehicular equipment and arranging replacements for parts.

 A charred Russian tank and captured tanks are seen, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (credit: Irina Rybakova/Press service of the Ukrainian Ground Forces/Handout via REUTERS) A charred Russian tank and captured tanks are seen, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (credit: Irina Rybakova/Press service of the Ukrainian Ground Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

The Ukrainian military claimed on Sunday morning that Russia had lost 582 tanks, 1,664 armored vehicles, 294 artillery pieces, 93 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), 52 anti-aircraft systems, 1,144 other ground vehicles and 73 fuel tankers. Open-source intelligence group Oryx, which has been documenting war losses with visual media verification, has identified hundreds of Russian vehicle losses, including 300 tanks, 218 armored fighting vehicles, 294 infantry fighting vehicles, 76 armored personnel carriers, 12 mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, 65 infantry mobility vehicles, 60 engineering items, 98 artillery pieces, 33 MLRS, 11 Anti-aircraft systems, 40 surface-to-air systems, and 621 other ground vehicles.

The Ukrainian military added that corruption was impacting Russian troops stationed in Belarus and that soldiers had sold fuel and provisions, or exchanged military equipment for alcohol.

Fuel serves as the Russian military's "second currency," Politico wrote on March 8, and that long-standing traditions of corruption had likely impeded Russian advances. Fuel shortages have continued to have been a problem during the invasion, though Russia has taken efforts to improve supply lines.

Another issue hindering movement by Russian vehicles, as related by retired US Defense Department civil servant Trent Telenko in a widely read Twitter thread, is that corruption likely played a role in the lack of maintenance of the tires of military vehicles. Many videos and photographs have emerged of Russian vehicles abandoned even with fuel inside. Telenko assessed that the tires in some vehicles captured by Ukrainian forces, the unexercised tires were falling off. 

Corruption in the Russian defense establishment has also played a role in the development of munitions. According to Politico in 2012, a Russian arms company embezzled millions of dollars meant for a missile interception system. In 2016, a company embezzled funds for navigation and control systems for high-precision ammunition.

In a UK Defense Ministry intelligence update on Sunday morning, it was noted that long-range precision weapons being launched from Russian airspace had a very high failure rate, though it was unclear what was the reason for these inadequacies.

"Up to 60% failure rates of these weapons will compound Russia’s problem of increasingly limited stocks forcing them to revert to less sophisticated missiles or accepting more risk to their aircraft," the UK Defense Ministry attributed to US reports.

Russia ranked 136th out of 180 countries in Transparency International's 2021 corruption perceptions index.  

GUR also noted on Saturday that there were other challenges besides corruption hindering Russia's restoration of old equipment, and that "in general, the Russian Federation often faces the problem of the impossibility of restoring equipment after 'deconservation' from warehouses."

The intelligence body also claimed in the same report that a regiment commander in the 4th Tank Division had killed himself, but it was not clear if GUR was implying that there was a connection between the suicide and corruption, or equipment rehabilitation issues.